Go! begins with the Columbia Pictures lady trying to hold up her torch, though she looks increasingly woozy as the picture and sound start to break up around her. And no wonder. One early scene is replayed three times, though on each occasion there’s a slightly different emphasis, acknowledging a “Rashomon”-like twist of perspective.
Jean-Luc Godard once said that every movie must have a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order. Tarantino’s scripts seem inspired by that notion, and the same goes for Go!,which begins at one key point in its story, backtracks to fill in details, then throws in the perspective of other characters.
At first the story seems to focus on Ronna (Sarah Polley), a Los Angeles supermarket clerk looking to score enough rent money to avoid eviction. After a series of botched drug deals and other mishaps, she is threatened by a dealer (the edgily funny Timothy Olyphant) and ends up in a ditch, possibly dead.
Go (check out the Special Edition) then shifts to another story, set in Las Vegas at Christmas and featuring Ronna’s fellow employee, Simon (Desmond Askew), though eventually this turns out to be crucially linked to Ronna’s story. Another segment focuses on two television soap stars, Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), who are also tied to Ronna.
Never are we given the opportunity to connect the dots and make sense of these relationships until Liman and his writer, John August (A Wrinkle in Time), are ready to reveal what ties the characters together.
The actors have been encouraged at each step to play the game, so Polley, Askew, Olyphant and the others don’t give too much away.
The strain shows only in William Fichtner’s performance as a kinky, essentially unplayable lawman who seems less like a character than a collection of ideas. Still, schematic as it is, the role eventually turns into a hilarious commentary on the draconian nature of current drug laws.
The amoral tone of Go! will offend some. At times, especially when guns are being pointed, consequences are being ignored and supposedly intelligent characters are acting stupidly, it threatens to become as mean-spirited and illogical as Very Bad Things.
It doesn’t hold together as well as Tarantino’s films, and it doesn’t subvert the celebrity-icon nature of the actors as wittily. Only Wolf is famous enough to accomplish this – and he does have a great time toying with his Party of Five image.
But Go! is more confident and a great deal more fun than Liman’s previous work. He’s definitely growing and improving. You get the sense that, once he stops with the imitations, he’ll become a formidable filmmaker on his own.